Monday, June 6, 2016

My Top Innovators in Horse Racing

It's often said innovation in horse racing doesn't happen much, if at all. It's said the business is too constrained for innovation; fiefdoms control much of the signals, video, data, and just about everything else, causing an environment that is 'innovationless'.

I won't argue that's, at least in part, true.

But, commentator, physicist and author Peter Diamandis once said, 'Companies have too many 'experts' that block innovation. True innovation comes from perpendicular thinking.'

You can still think in perpendicular fashion, despite being blocked. There are certainly some in the sport who think without shackles. 

Here are a few people and/or organizations that I think have been trying to innovate in the sport of horse racing. I'm sure there are others, but these ones, over the years, have caught my eye.

Mark Midland -- Mark is the man behind Derby Wars and Horse Racing Nation, after a career at Youbet. Mark is always trying to think of new ways to do things, and has succeeded in various ways. Derby Wars, for example, was an early adopter of the fantasy seed laid by FanDuel, before many even heard of FanDuel.

Dana Byerly - Not employed by horse racing, Dana proves you don't need a paycheck to try new things.  Hello Race Fans, a fan education site, was created long before anyone was talking about fan education. Tout Wire and Horse Racing Data Sets are two other ventures.  Dana also runs which (I'd be bereft to mention) was created by another innovative thinker, Jessica Chapel.

TimeformUS - Real time updated odds on the PP's (for racetracks who let them), pace projector, bias indicators, updated PP's with scratches and surface changes; all optimized for a tablet. In racing it's often said "our customers won't like that, because they like reading the races one way." This makes trying things (at times) that are deemed commercially not viable difficult. But, people read paper charts while stock trading 20 years ago and now paper charts don't even exist. Times change, markets change and so do people. TimeformUS is working towards that change. **

Betfair/New Jersey - Racing often considers new ways to play sport cannibalization, and has forever. But cheese makers didn't worry about cheddar sales and looked towards increasing gross sales by offering more types of cheese and packaging it differently. New Jersey grabbed the ball and ran with it. Racing in many ways missed the boat with online wagering; Betfair didn't. Kudos to the Garden State for trying to look forward.

Brad Cummings -  Brad helped create The Paulick Report and supervised its various user experience iterations. People can gripe all they want about it being a link farm, but it works, and has worked for some time; it's modern, fast, and entertaining. Brad also created "Equilottery" which, on the surface, is something the industry needs to look into to attack new markets.

OptixEQ - A visual way to look at the races along with dedicated trip notes; longer and more detailed than the "ridden out" industry standard.  This is a new entrant into the space, created in part by past NHC champ John Doyle.

Ian Meyers - Ian was the man, at the early stage, behind Premier Turf Club. This ADW was the first to offer conditional wagering, and most importantly, cash rewards to every player. Small players were getting rewards from offshore sites for some time, and Ian helped bring some of them back into the fold. Others resisted, and still resist in offering better pricing to their customers, so they can win more, and bet more.  Ian saw the way the industry needed to head to not lose market share, long before the industry did.

Canterbury Park - Canterbury Park is trying to leverage their on-track crowd better, and they're educating them on the benefits of lower takeout. They're also trying to stake a claim to a national audience. Their subsidy for purses may run out some day, and they're trying to be innovative on what they do beforehand. Some might just say this is good business, and they'd be right, but you can count on many hands and feet jurisdictions that do or did nothing with slot money other than stuff it into a purse.

NYRA's TV and Video Department - At NYRA, it's not just put up an "L" screen and hope people keep betting. They use their back-end talent to create new ways to show the races. Their on-track show is tops, they have different TV angles, HD pictures and even allow Spanish listeners to hear a call in their preferred language. It's no surprise other signals have copied the left to right lower virtual odds board of late.

Some honorable mentions -- I like XBTV; the DRF is clearly still doing some excellent things (Forumlator is a very good tool, and one of the first web-based database programs offered in the sport); there are many people trying things on twitter and elsewhere, like Jason Beem. There are others I have no doubt forgotten (or am unaware of), so let me know what you think in the comments section.

** - I know a couple of the TFUS guys. Just an FYI.


Jen said...


ok so I know you don't follow the 'blog on Tw
but Thoroughblog was the first ever blog for horse racing in Ontario maybe Canada - March 2006. Anyway just tossing that out there

Anonymous said...

Who is Jason Beem?

Cangamble said...

Hey Jen. Just checked, Cangamble's first post was Feb 23, 2006:) However, yours is way more focused on Ontario racing, that is for sure. And my blog is semi-semi-semi retired now while yours is still going gangbusters.

Anonymous said...

All of your article is positive but at the end of the day racing is just another product which needs to compete on price unless it has something unique about it which it doesnt.
Racing is not remotely competing with sports betting, poker,blackjack ,sharemarket trading etc
I honestly cant see racing being around in 15 years time.

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